A guide dog…already?

No, not really, except…

We had a longer walk than I’d planned.

Actually, we’ve had a walk or two since the last entry, including a trip to the grocery store, where we got to practice lying down in the car, not her favorite thing ever, but she’ll do it, and yes, she can squeeze down amazingly small if she has a mind to. But there really isn’t anything much to say about that. Today’s walk is what we’re concerned with.

First, yeah, I think she’s definitely a fan of the work, or at least of the going. When I put Leno in the crate, she ran around a little, then ran to the front door. Right to the front door, as if to say, “Oh boy!!!! We’re going, let’s go now!!!!”

My plan was to find a convenience store that I thought I remembered, on some block with which Hilda was not familiar. Come to that, I wasn’t exceeding familiar with them either, but they weren’t that out of the way. She required a few more reminders, verbal only, mostly, of what she was about, as she would try to go left down a street instead of continuing forward, or look distractedly off somewhere and get us off track a little, but she was easily redirected. Very easily really. I wasn’t quite sure where this store was, but when I prompted “Inside”, she took us right to a door all right! It was the wrong kind of door, in the wrong place, but by gosh, it was a door, and she did what she was supposed to. Someone took us to the correct door though, and we went in for milk. And we got the “No dog” Indian guy. So here’s the thing. Even though in Pennsylvania, trainers of service dogs also have access rights, and even though I still consider her very much in training as she has a lot yet to learn, I felt absolutely no compunction at all about calling her a guide dog. She got me to the store, clearly understanding and applying what she’s learned to new and unfamiliar areas. Yes, she still needs some work on her social graces, but she’s still quite young and immature, and considering that, she’s doing wonderfully well. Anyway, I didn’t have to argue much, and other customers were telling him, “Yeah, hey, he needs that dog!” and things like that, and the guy was then saying, “Yeah, I know”, and was very helpful after.

Then, we had our adventure.

I’m still not sure how exactly, but instead of going west on 32nd street, we ended up going north, towards downtown, on Cherry street. Best I can figure, I was lined up at the corner a little bit wrong. To Hilda’s credit however, we didn’t diagonal the crossing, but rather went across the wrong street. The only way I found this out was that Hilda took a little side trip into aa parking lot and up to somewhere, not sure where, and we had to backtrack. This is where GPS came in very handy. The other thing is, I’m also not sure how I ended up, eventually, on the wrong side of 29th street, so when I found myself, I then ended up going west instead of east for several blocks. Once I figured that out, we were home free.

The thing is, our getting lost in that way was all my doing, except perhaps the initial error that got us across the wrong street. Hilda kept her line pretty well and, up until we got closer to home, a couple miles or so after we started our walk, stopped at all the curbs.

A couple things. Sometimes, when she’s turning, she’ll do a complete 180, instead of just a 90-degree left or right, or at least to wherever the sidewalk is. That’s really just a matter of getting her to understand what I want, and that’s getting better really.

She’s also learning to look for all kinds of obstacles. There were some small logs on the sidewalk at one point. My foot hit one once, so I back her up and reworked it. She cleared me the next time. This guy commented on it, and I explained what we were doing as he moved the log (after we passed it). He told us there was another one further up, which, if it was still there, Hilda passed without running me over it.

She also encountered someone on a mobility scooter in the sidewalk, so we got to work past her. Hilda was initially hesitant, but after she got a good look and said howdy, I asked the woman to move into the sidewalk more. Hilda worked past, the scooter also went past us and Hilda had no trouble.

A couple other things that required a little verbal redirection. Once, while crossing, Hilda tried to angle over to an idling car to, one supposes, greet her adoring public. It didn’t take much convincing to get her to change her mind. Another time, a “Forward” off the curb, she wanted to instead go right and walk down the street instead. The really great thing about her is that she’s very, very easy to redirect. Mostof the time, she only requires a “No, hupp-up” or some such, and not even very sternly.

I sort of wish I could figure out a good way to get some video of a walk, but I’m not really sure how I’d accomplish such a thing. I’ll have to think on it some more.

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